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TRANSPORTATION:

Board’s split means uncertain future for valley’s bus system

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Regional Transportation Commission buses travel downtown in this 2010 file photo.

Updated Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011 | 6:10 p.m.

RTC board has no resolution

KSNV coverage of the results of meeting with the Regional Transportation Commission's board which was unable to come to a resolution and approve a contract to operate the valley's public bus system. August 11, 2011.

The wheels on the bus contract debate continue going around and around, but no progress has been made.

After a nearly four-hour debate Thursday, the Regional Transportation Commission’s board was unable to come to a resolution and approve a contract to operate the valley’s public bus system.

Board members voted 4-4 twice on different proposals: One to deny giving the bus contract to First Transit, as RTC staff suggested, and start the process over; and one to award the contract to First Transit.

Since the board couldn’t get votes to approve the contract or approve starting over, the issue stays at a stalemate until at least the next board meeting, scheduled for Sept. 8.

Board members’ votes Thursday were consistent with their earlier votes and comments.

Henderson Councilwoman Debra March, Boulder City Mayor Roger Tobler, North Las Vegas Councilman Robert Eliason and Mesquite Councilman Kraig Hafen voted for First Transit to get the contract. County commissioners Larry Brown and Chris Giunchigliani, and Las Vegas Councilman Steve Ross and Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian voted for Veolia Transportation to get the contract.

The contract, worth about $83 million annually, has been the subject of intense lobbying and debate since it could move operation of the valley’s bus system from Veolia, one of the largest transportation companies in the world, to another.

First Transit’s bid for the contract was nearly $50 million less over the possible seven-year life of the contract than Veolia’s, but some board members said they were concerned that First Transit underbid and would be unable to provide quality service.

In May, the board voted 4-3 to approve the contract.

But Tarkanian, who had just been appointed to the board to replace former Mayor Oscar Goodman, wasn't at the meeting. While the four votes met the majority of the board members present, it wasn’t the five votes needed to be a majority of all board members.

Attorneys for Veolia protested at the next commission meeting, saying state law requires the board to act by a majority vote of all members, regardless of whether they are present.

Both Veolia and the RTC requested an opinion from the office of Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto. The office responded in July, saying the law did apply to the RTC and the board would need to rescind its vote or face action by the state.

The board rescinded the contract at its July meeting.

Veolia already has agreed to extend its existing contract up to a year to give the commission time to repeat the bidding and contract process. The current contract expires at the end of September.

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